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Head of L.A. firefighters union says recall petition ruled invalid

The push to recall the controversial head of L.A.'s firefighter union has fizzled, according to the man who was the target of the campaign over the last three months.

Pat McOsker, president of United Firefighters of Los Angeles City Local 112, said the union’s election committee unanimously invalidated the recall drive after discovering that signature gatherers had, in violation of the rules, failed to attach the reasons for the recall to their petitions.

McOsker has been criticized for using aggressive tactics to lobby against reductions in firefighter and paramedic staffing, including the publication of a mailer featuring images of last year’s deadly Metrolink crash in Chatsworth. The recall drive came at a time when his union was at impasse with city negotiators.

The union president said earlier this week that he was disappointed at the panel’s findings.

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“I wanted to have that election because we would have won it pretty handily,” he said.

Organizers of the recall campaign had no comment.

On its website, the recall committee states that another attempt to oust McOsker before the next election is “probably not in the best interest of the membership at this particular time.”

McOsker grabbed the public’s attention earlier this year with his Metrolink mailer, warning that reductions in staffing would make it more difficult for the Los Angeles Fire Department to respond to emergencies. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa held a news conference to denounce the mailer as exploitative.

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In recent weeks, the union has pointed out that three people have died in incidents in which a closer firetruck had been shuttered because of budget cutbacks. High-level fire officials said they do not know whether the deaths would have been averted by having closer medical units nearby.

The sharp-edged campaign prompted five firefighters to push publicly for a recall in October on the grounds that McOsker was needlessly alienating the city’s political leadership.

The group gathered signatures from more than 20% of the membership to force a recall, according to the website devoted to the dispute.

McOsker responded by saying the union’s campaign had not harmed its standing with the city’s elected officials.

“My relationship with them is based on mutual respect, and I want them to respect firefighters and treat them fairly,” he said.

The decision to invalidate the petitions does not seem to have reduced the animosity between the union president and his critics.

In a statement posted on their website, recall advocates blamed McOsker for the election committee’s decision and said he should have called for a vote regardless of that panel’s findings.

McOsker, in turn, posted a message on the union’s website Tuesday saying he had nothing to do with the panel’s decision.

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The vote was unanimous from both supporters and opponents of the recall on the committee, he said.

david.zahniser@latimes.com


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